The Margins of the Moor
PUBLISHED: 10:25 23 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:25 23 November 2015
Visit the gateway to Exmoor and enjoy views from the highest point in Somerset on this walk with SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE and JAMES CLANCY
Need to know:
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure 9, Exmoor, 1:25,000.
If you have a compass it’s useful at the trig point
Directions to start: Dulverton is on the southern edge of Exmoor, at junction of B3223 and B3222
Start point: Dulverton Town Hall (Fore Street); Grid ref SS913279; Postcode, TA22 9EX
Parking: Well-signed car parks/on-street parking in Dulverton
Public transport: Dulverton is well-served by buses. Info from travelinesw.com
Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)
Exertion: Easy to moderately strenuous – longish uphill section near start
Terrain: Tracks, field and woodland paths. Possible damp patches. Brief stretch on lane and picturesque Dulverton backwaters
Refreshments and comfort stops: Many options in Dulverton. A favourite is The Copper Kettle Tea Rooms and Garden, 01398 323697, open all year except Sundays (but open Sundays of bank holiday weekends).
Dog friendly: Yes (including The Copper Kettle)
Look out for
Court Down trig point
Views to Dunkery Beacon
Allow time to explore Dulverton
Dulverton is a delightful and historic little town surrounded by glorious countryside – the gateway to Exmoor. In winter, when the higher reaches can be wild and inhospitable, this walk on the edgemost parts of the moor is more accessible. Filigrees of frost adorn trees and hedges and the added enticement of a cosy Dulverton pub or tea shop adds to the flavour.
1. Starting with your back to the Town Hall’s arched steps, turn right to walk up the road, passing the road to Lynton on the left and keeping ahead along Bank Square, towards the church. Go through the lychgate to visit the church then emerge from the porch and turn left along the path, building to your left. In a few metres go down the steps and walk along cobbled Church Lane. Turn left at the end towards Rock House Inn then in 50m go left along School Lane, a restricted byway. Follow this winding and tiny backwater, enjoying views across Dulverton as the path climbs. At a three-way fingerpost above the church keep ahead, uphill, towards Broford. In about 50m the track swings right in front of the gates to what was once the primary school and is now a private house. Go right with the now-unsurfaced track, trudging uphill under trees on this ancient route and keeping an eye open for the gate on the left which soon gives a good view back over the old school.
2. Six hundred breathy metres after this a three-way fingerpost is reached. Continue on the restricted byway towards Court Down and Broford, savouring a briefly level stretch of walking. At prominent white gateposts on the right the track bears left, keep with it.
In just under 200m another three-way fingerpost awaits. Here, leave the restricted byway and go right (back on yourself) on a blue-marked bridleway that goes through a metal gate. Once through the gate go sharp left in the direction of the single finger by the gate, signed for Court Down and a camping barn. You quickly pass into the next field, after which keep ahead, hillside views to the right, through this long, fairly narrow field until you reach the far right corner beside a post and wire fence.
3. In the next field there are views to the right down to Northcombe Farm. A track goes ahead; in about 20m go left off this track to follow the narrower path beside the bank boundary on your left, with fields sloping down to Northcombe on the right.
In just over 100m pass through a bridleway gate, cross a track and then go through another gate on the far side of the track, still aiming for Court Down. The path goes under a line of trees, following the left field boundary. At the end of the field go through a metal gate in the corner and keep ahead through the next field, following the left boundary and climbing gently towards a gap in the top boundary.
At the gap is a four-way fingerpost. Follow the direction obliquely left across the field on the bridleway for Broford Farm (not Broford). After a few paces a trig point appears at the crest of the hill. Head for this, an excellent viewpoint. On a clear day Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in Somerset, can be seen to the north-north-west (ahead and left of your line of approach to the trig).
4. From the trig turn to face the way you came, looking at the gap in the boundary through which you walked. Walk back towards this boundary, but bear right (south-west) to a gate in the corner below two rather spindly trees. At the gate is a four-way fingerpost. Pass through the gate and take the footpath towards Marsh Bridge, following the line of the left boundary downhill, with a gorgeous view ahead.
In the bottom corner emerge from the field onto a crossing track and turn left. In 70m there is a three-way fingerpost and a right turn towards Marsh Bridge – but first partake of the nearby bench beneath magnificent trees. This has been a favourite ‘snack-stop’ for me since childhood.
Descend the track towards Marsh Bridge, through the trees of curiously-named Looseall Wood, a place of ancient mossy boundaries. Ignore any paths off until, 700m down, you reach a broad fork in the track. Here keep right (ahead) still descending on the sunken track and in about 150m you reach the lane near a junction of roads.
5. Cross over and head towards a small stone bridge spanning the stream, a pretty area. Beyond here cross the larger bridge over the River Barle and head along the road towards Marsh Bridge Cottage. In winter their tea gardens won’t be open – a good reason to come back in summer. Continue up the lane beyond the cottage for 200m and as the lane bends right a fingerpost points left into Kennel Farm, along a footpath to Dulverton. Take this path, passing between barns towards a post and rail fence. Go through the kissing gate and keep ahead, enjoying wooded valley views to the left.
6. Leaving Kennel Farm behind, the path goes under trees and within 100m passes a fingerpost on the right. Keep ahead (don’t be tempted up to the right), going slightly downhill and hopping over a stream in another (approx) 100m. Just after this is another three-way fingerpost. Keep ahead on the footpath to Dulverton, one mile away.
Stay with this beautiful path as it meanders in and out and goes up and down beside the river to the left. It can be shaley in places – don’t slip. Before reaching the fringes of Dulverton you may spot a small memorial to the right of the path, commemorating the gift of this area, Burridge Wood, to the Exmoor National Park.
Glimpses of Dulverton come into view across the river. The path emerges by a white house and becomes surfaced. Keep going downhill, passing various house drives and junctions until the lane brings you to the road bridge in Dulverton. Pause and look back up to the heights of Oldberry Castle, an Iron Age hill fort, high above Burridge Wood. Turn left along the road over the bridge, taking a moment to peer over its right-hand parapet to admire the tenacity of a dog rose that has self-seeded in one of the stanchions. It flowers cheerfully in summer.
Continue through the town noticing, diagonally opposite the Bridge Inn, a wall plaque marking the height of water at the time of the great flood in 1952, when many lost their lives at Lynmouth, on the Exmoor coast. At the pharmacy keep left and the Town Hall is round the corner. Tea awaits.
(Simone Stanbrook-Byrne & James Clancy, authors of ‘A Dozen Dramatic Walks in Somerset’)